Earth Watch: Earth saver? Lasers manipulate spin of ‘asteroid’ in simulated experiment

Researchers have honed laser technology to be able to slow, stop, and reverse the rotation of an asteroid-like target in a simulated space environment. The findings could potentially help deflect Earth-bound asteroids in the event of a major-impact threat.

The DE-STAR (Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation) can, among other uses, stop the rotation of a spinning asteroid, according to small-scale, graphic demonstrations by the Experimental Cosmology Group, led by UC Santa Barbara physicist Philip Lubin and Gary B. Hughes, a researcher and professor at California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo.

In order to simulate the laser’s deflection capabilities, researchers used basalt, which is composed of materials similar to those of an asteroid. The team directed a laser at the basalt until it began to turn from a mineral to a gas. As the “asteroid” lost mass, it became a propellant. ∞∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞∞


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